Suck It Up! Sometimes You Have To Be The Bad Guy

For most managers out there, being the “bad guy” isn’t always easy.  Sure, when it comes to disciplining and employee they have no problem.  But when it comes to having to terminate an employee, most don’t like that feeling regardless of how rock solid a case you have.

Being the “bad guy” comes with the title.  You have to tell someone when they are doing things wrong, violating policy, presenting a bad attitude.  You can’t be their friend, no more than a parent can always be a “friend” to their child.  As much as it is a discomfort for some to do, terminating an employee after you have determined it is the right course of action is in the best interest of the company so you have to take a deep breath and just do it.

Sometimes, the employee will just up and leave…and we secretly hope this is the reaction to make it easier to manage the situation.  However, sometimes the employee will make a last ditch effort to plead their case and get you – the manager – to change your mind.  Here is where you can get yourself into trouble if you don’t stand firm on your position.

Employee Morale

Employee talk.  Gossip is rampant in companies regardless of how well some think they manage it.  Employees talk after hours with each other or exchange opinions via social media.  So, if you are terminating a problem employee remember you are setting an example for the others as well.  They are watching to see if 1) you are a man (or woman) of your word by sticking to what you set out to do, 2) if you care about the well-being of all your employees and 3) do you really hold power.  That last one is vital!

If the employee being terminated has been problematic and complaints have been filed about this person over and over with you yet when the moment comes for you to eliminate the problem and you don’t, it sends a message to the other employees that you are “all talk” and will bend to complaining employees.  What happens next?…

Respect Is Lost

Two things are vital for a manager to gain from their employees: trust and respect.  Without even one of them, you can’t effectively manage your team.  When you don’t stand your ground and act as a manager, why should other employees treat you like a manager.  It sounds harsh, but think about managers that you have had in the past that you didn’t respect.  What did they do, or rather – what didn’t they do?

Company Liability

Now comes the “HR” spin to the situation.  Many managers dismiss the seriousness of backing out of a termination and think “well, we still have a case.”  If you have worked with your HR department on a progressive discipline plan and then reached the decision to terminate after solidifying your case, giving the employee “one last chance” (again) will tell any third party (such an Unemployment) that it “really wasn’t that bad” after all.  For example, if you are terminating an employee for repeated violation of company policy (let’s say the attendance policy) and at termination you decide to give them one last chance to “straighten up,” the next time you decide to terminate them for the same reason flags will be raised as to whether or not this was a serious enough violation to terminate since, well, you let them get away with it so many times!

Some Employees Just Don’t Work Out

Bottom line: No matter how much you try and counsel or correct them, some employees just don’t care enough about themselves to make things work.  As the manager, your other employees depend on you to set the course for the department and keep morale up so they stay engaged and do the best job for you.  If you have come to the point where you know termination is the only answer, then you have already proven to yourself that “one last chance” won’t really change anything in the long term.  Part ways as amicably as you can and turn your focus back to the employees you have that are giving you 110%.  Once you get past the initial sit-down talk with them, you will see that is was the best thing you could have done for both parties.

HR: What Are Your New Year’s Resolutions for 2017?

Hey, everybody has been talking “New Year’s resolutions” so why not!  Just kidding…but now is a good time to tackle of a couple of compliance things to make sure you are kicking off the New Year on the right foot.

With everything else that comes with the New Year and end-of-year paperwork (like those W2s and Form 1094s and 1095s), the start of the new calendar year is a good time to give other parts a good look-over, just to make sure everything is up-to-date and you don’t get caught half-way through the year.

Here are a couple of suggestions to make time for this month:

1.  When was the last time you went and checked your Labor posters?

Now is a good time to check to make sure you have the latest AND that you have them posted where employees can see them.  Many people make sure they are visible in their “HR” department but what about employee breakrooms?  We had a lot of changes last year from classifications and minimum wage increases.  Make sure all of your workplace posters are up-to-date and the correct size. Check with your state labor department for any industry-specific poster requirements that may apply to your business. Note that certain localities may also have posting requirements.

Psst…. *You can visit the Federal and your state’s Department of Labor websites and download the new posters for free.

2. Put together an Employee Information Package. Were they any changes to your benefits?  How about those annual required notices, such as summary plan descriptions (SPDs) or COBRA- and FMLA-related notices?  Remember that employers are required under various laws to provide employees with certain information about their benefits and responsibilities.   While employees may be less interested in the annual required notices (yes, you still have to give it to them!), they will be very upset if they go to use their benefits this month and find out their FSA card is not valid or insurance deductibles changed.  Even if it is included in information that went out when the plan changed was being finalized, a quick snapshot memo of “Changes you need to know for 2017” brings it back to their attention so they can’t come back later and complain that you never told them.

3. When is the last time your reviewed your Employee files? Employers are required to maintain certain types of employee records in order to comply with applicable law but many only are required for a certain number of years.  What not declutter around the office!

  • Take time to review what documents you need to have paper copies of and what you can scan and save.
  • Check employee files to make sure your I-9s are up-to-date (and using the current form) with unexpired IDs.
  • Make sure each of your employees has an Emergency Contact sheet and that its not older than 3yrs (in my opinion) as contact names may not change but phone numbers frequently.
  • Make sure you have insurance beneficiary forms for all your employees that you are providing Life insurance and 401k plans for, including: make sure they signed it! So many employees worry so much about getting their beneficiary information correct that they forget the easiest part of all.

4. Review your current policies and procedures.  Again, a lot of employments laws changed last year or are slated to change during 2017 so this is a good time to review your current Employee Handbook as well as company policies and procedures.

Performance Review Time – Should You Keep Doing Them?

 

Its the beginning of the New Year and many companies may be getting ready to produce their employees’ annual performance reviews, so I’m sure the topic of whether or not its worth the time has started to come up.

There are a lot of different opinions out there as to whether or not companies should still be doing “performance reviews” for their employees.  Some say its too time consuming in this day and age.  Others say employees don’t really care because all they want to hear about is a raise.  And even more say that there’s just no purpose anymore.

I disagree.

Performance Reviews are more than just a “necessary evil we have to do once a year.”  Its an opportunity for the manager and the employee to have an open discussion on the employee’s work performance and continued employment with the company.

Today’s employees aren’t building lifelong careers with any one company anymore.  In fact, studies are out that actual encourage employees to change jobs every 3-4 years.  That “job-hopping” that used to be frowned upon in the past now…its acceptable and expected.  Turnover in a company does more than create open positions and slow down production for a short time – it costs the company money.  Money that has to be spent on recruiting the new employee and then training the new employee before they are ready to perform the job by themselves.  Companies that properly use “performance reviews” are able to control that amount of turnover and, quite possibly, find they have employees that they can promote from within again.

Employees today, more than ever, want to know what they are doing right, what they are doing wrong and what they can do to advance in the company.  Not communicating with the employee shows them that the company doesn’t care about them or their career path and before long, their performance will start to drop.    A negative attitude will develop…employees will begin missing work or coming in late as dedication to the job begins to slide.  By the time their manager finally does come around to giving them a review, all they will focus on is the employee’s poor performance – taking no ownership in the fact that they themselves contributed to the problem.

Performance reviews are basically feedback we give our employees.  While many managers claim it takes too much time and limit it to once a year, it actually should take place more often during the year.  The biggest complaint employees have about the process when its only annual is the manager will only focus on what he or she has done recently.  So, if they were a star employee for 9 months but the last 3 months ran into issues because of family problems, for example, the manager will typically use that as the focal point and the review will talk about how they “need to improve their attendance and performance.”  No wonder employees get frustrated!

If you decide this year to change how you do things and turn it into shorter, but quarterly reviews, the goals you set for the employee will seem more attainable – setting them up for success instead of failure – because you will be discussing the progress throughout the year as issues are coming up.  What you are truly showing your employee is that the two of you are working together as a “team.”

Keep in mind – feedback sessions do not have to be formal reviews.  Call it a “strategy meeting” or “career planning” if it makes it easier for you not to label it a “performance review.”  You will sit down your entire department to talk about a goal and strategize how to accomplish it.  Well, why not do the same with your employees?

These sessions should be two-way feedback sessions with your employees also sharing their observations, expectations and suggestions for both personal and company improvement.  Remember – while you are focused on managing these employees, they are the ones carry out the tasks and will have more insight into the effectiveness of the plans you have put into place.

Talk about what additional training the employee should also look into and whether or not the company would be willing to absorb the cost.  Let them research training and classes on their own to show you how serious they are about improving themselves.  Not all employees will be motivated to do so and that’s okay.  The point is that you created the opportunity for it to exist and by including it in a performance review session, you also have a speaking point to come back to in future sessions.

You don’t need fancy programs or long forms to fill out – keep it simple and stick to only what’s relevant:

  • Attendance and punctuality
  • Quality of work produced
  • Communication skills: following directions, asking questions, offering help
  • Knowledge of the job
  • Interaction with customers and other employees

And then, set some goals:

  • What is the specific goal as it applies to the employee (not overall for the department)
  • Give a timeline of when you want to see the goals completed
  • What training will the company assist them with or help them find to complete the task
  • What are your expectations: that the employee let you know how things are going, ask for help when needed, make suggestions for changes along the way

That’s it!  Let them know how you feel they are performing right now, what areas you would like to see them improve in and what goals you would like them to work toward before the next discussion.  You are creating a positive and growing environment for the employee and “a happy employee = a productive employee!”

Bonus: By following this method, if an employee’s performance starts to deteriorate and the company decides to end their employment, you now how documentation to show that you (as the company) did try to help the employee improve and can show that the company offered their part in helping improve the matter.